As the last and most frequently built member of the V 160 family, the class 218 was the most important mainline diesel locomotive on the Bundesbahn and remained a very important model on the DB until after the year 2000. Originally designated as the V 164, it received the more powerful MTU TB10 engine from the class 215 with 1,839 kW. Later series also received the 2,060 kW TB11 or the French Pielstick 16PA 4V 200 with 16 cylinders and 1,986 kW built under license.
The hydraulic transmission could be switched between two gears while stationary, which, with a maximum speed of 100 and 140 km/h, allowed both high tractive forces for freight trains and high speeds for passenger trains. In the period up to the unification of the Bundesbahn and the Reichsbahn, they were used on non-electrified routes, sometimes double-headed, in front of almost all types of trains and, thanks to their push-pull train control, also enabled efficient use in local transport. Eventually, the Soviet class 232 locomotives took over many of their duties and supplanted them from many trains. They were also used on routes in front of passenger trains, where they could take advantage of their slightly higher speed. There were also conversions that were 160 km/h fast. Above all, these are still used to some extent today as towing locomotives for broken-down ICEs, for which they were given automatic couplings and always run in double traction.
Two traffic red 218s in June 2014 in front of the Sylt shuttle
In the meantime, their number has shrunk, but now all have either the TB11 engine with optimizations in the area of exhaust and noise insulation or have been converted to the modern MTU 16V 4000. In October 2018, a total of 126 of 399 units were still in use, half of which were used by the DB AG and half by private operators, which are gradually disappearing. In many places, the 218 was replaced by DMUs or the new genset class 245.